By Tariq Butt
ISLAMABAD: Asif Ali Zardari is using the opposition of his junior coalition partners, the Awami National Party (ANP) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), as counterbalance to the deposed judges’ restoration, in his talks with Nawaz Sharif.
“Zardari is not alone in resolutely opposing the reinstatement of sacked chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry but has the support of ANP and JUI of Maulana Fazlur Rehman,” a source told The News.
He said that Zardari informed the PML-N interlocutors in his recent round of discussion with Nawaz Sharif that the ANP and JUI also did not want the return of the deposed judges. It has been widely known that these two parties are unenthusiastic about the reinstatement of the dismissed judges, but what has not been publicly recognised is that Zardari is using their aversion to the deposed justices in his talks with Nawaz Sharif.
“Iftikhar Chaudhry,” a member of the new six-man committee comprising senior PPP and PML-N representatives replied without thinking for a moment when asked to designate the single most important stumbling block hindering a consensus between Zardari and Nawaz on the restoration of the deposed justices.
The member said that in any case, Zardari did not want the return of Iftikhar Chaudhry, as he felt more comfortable with Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar being the head of the Supreme Court and was deeply suspicious of the deposed top judge’s judicial actions after his restoration. Additionally, the PPP leader did not want to back out from any “commitment” that might annoy any quarter, including the presidency and the United States.
Neither the ANP nor the JUI has mostly been involved in the high-level ruling coalition talks on the judges’ question. ANP President Asfandyar Wali has almost stopped speaking publicly on the most ticklish issue while JUI chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman keeps talking about it, showing no soft corner for the deposed judges. But the latter has never been inclined to rock the boat whether the government is headed by Zafarullah Jamali, Shaukat Aziz or Yousuf Raza Gilani. The presidency also counts the ANP and JUI MNAs among the seventy percent of the MPs who, according to a presidential spokesman’s claim, support Pervez Musharraf.
A couple of weeks’ back, Fazlur Rehman met Nawaz Sharif at the latter’s Raiwind farm in Lahore and pleaded against the terminated justices’ return. He tried to persuade the PML-N chief to change his mind or there will be instability. However, his mission did not meet with success. It is believed that he undertook this venture with Zardari’s prior knowledge.
Given the PPP chief’s upfront assertion that he doesn’t accept any countdown for reinstatement of the judges, the PML-N, another source said, is now not too sure that it would be able to achieve the implementation of the Murree accord by the cutoff date of April 30 mentioned in it.
The PML-N, it now seems, is also prepared to compromise on somewhat delay, beyond the April 30 deadline, in bringing the judges back and is unlikely to react too attackingly on this question.
The source said that if the PML-N wants to keep the coalition intact, which it no doubt desires, it would not take its stand to a degree on adhering to the 30-day deadline where its alliance with the PPP falls apart.
“It is beyond doubt that we have to realise the commitment of return of the judges by the dotted line, but if it was not possible, we have to live with somewhat delay,” the committee member told this correspondent.
Interestingly, despite the fact that there was no worthwhile progress in Tuesday’s Zardari-Nawaz deliberations, the two leaders decided to face the reporters with the aim to dismiss the impression that there was a total stalemate. The factual but aggressive media coverage of their Monday talks forced them to make public statements that the situation was no so dismal.
“I think the contentious issues would be sorted out in the deliberations of the committee, which will remain under pressure to conclude its assignment without any delay,” the source said.
Source: The News, 24/4/2008